Monday, August 24, 2015

Summer Harvest Pasta

I have a serious problem.  A problem I will mourn when I no longer have it.  It's an over abundance of tomatoes and a basil plant so prolific that it wants to become a shrub.  What to do with all of these beautiful tomatoes?  Salads, check. BLTs, check. Give some away, check.  Pasta...

This is a recipe that I first shared in 2009 and one I love to make every year at this time when local tomatoes, zucchini, corn and fresh basil are abundant and easy to find at farmers' markets everywhere. I felt it was worth repeating as it's such a delicious recipe and one both my husband and I love. 

This time, I used my prolific cherry tomatoes and some corn and zucchini I had just bought at the local farmers' market. 

Flavored with fresh herbs, it's creamy sauce is made from the juice of the tomatoes, a little white wine and cheese. Sound good?

Before the summer harvest comes to an end, please give this wonderful pasta a try!

Summer Harvest Pasta

Recipe adapted from Williams Sonoma
Printable Recipe

Serves 8 as a side dish

My Notes:  You can use cherry tomatoes in this recipe, just cut them in half and use about 1 to 1-1/2 pounds. I like to use the smaller, mezze penne pasta.  When you buy fresh corn at the farmers' market, cut the kernels off right away if you aren't going to use it and freeze in zipper bags for future use (don't forget to scrape off the corn 'milk' from the cobs too). I buy tomato paste in a tube so I can refrigerate it and use small portions such as this any time.  I used Chardonnay wine, which is what I like to drink with dinner, but use any white wine that you enjoy - or substitute chicken broth or stock.
Kosher salt, to taste
1/2 lb Penne Pasta (I used the smaller, mezze penne)
6 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
Fresh Kernels cut from of 2 ears of corn
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4-6 small zucchini, about 2 lb. total, cut into half-moons
1/2 yellow onion, diced
4 tomatoes, cored, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 tablespoons sliced or grated garlic
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
6 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Generously salt the water, add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until just barely tender, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and rinse under cold running water. Set aside.

In a 12-inch oven proof saute pan over medium heat, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the corn, season with salt and black pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn is lightly golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

Return the pan to medium heat and heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil. Working in batches, add the zucchini, season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is tender and golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Add to the bowl with the corn. Repeat with the remaining zucchini, adding more oil to the pan as needed.

Set the pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion, 1 teaspoon of salt and black pepper, to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes soften and begin to form a sauce, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until the wine has reduced and the sauce is fairly thick, about 3 minutes more.

Add the pasta, tomato sauce, basil, mozzarella and half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano to the bowl with the vegetables and stir to combine. Transfer to the same oven proof frying pan and sprinkle the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano on top. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until golden brown on top, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Lemon Semifreddo with Berries and Amaretto

Two weeks ago, we hosted our Gourmet Group.  We take our turn hosting in the summer when we can dine outside on our patio.  Fingers, toes and eyes are always crossed that the weather will cooperate.  It did!  Not only did the weather cooperate, it was the weekend of the full 'Blue Moon' so I named our gourmet "Once in a Blue Moon Gourmet" on the invitations.

Our Gourmet Group of five couples is a wonderful opportunity to try new recipes and, yes, we've had some misses but quite a few hits also over the years.  We only meet every two months or so and each couple only hosts once a year. Each couple is assigned one recipe to prepare and finish and plate at the hosts' home - usually an appetizer, soup, salad or dessert.

It's fun to receive the invitations in the mail and see your assigned recipe and either praise or curse the hosts :)  Seriously, as we've been doing this for quite a few years, we try not to over burden anyone in the group.  It needs to be fun and relaxed! Even though we drink less and go to bed earlier than we did a couple of decades ago, we still have fun together keeping the tradition going.

The inspiration for this dessert that I assigned to one of the couples came from Moveable Feasts, a blog I admire and follow.  Barbara has wonderful taste in food and recipes.  Even though the original recipe is made with Meyer lemons, it tastes equally delicious with regular lemons, which are much easier to find here in the Midwest.

We all raved about the dessert the night of our gourmet, and, when we were invited to dinner to a friend's home this past weekend, I jumped at the chance to make the Lemon Semifreddo myself to share with them.  I made two - one to bring to our friends' home and one for my husband and I to share with our family when they come for dinner soon.

The most involved portion of the recipe is making the custard for the semifreddo.  This requires stirring egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon zest and sugar over simmering water for about 10-15 minutes.  The rest is all done with a stand or hand mixer.  Even though the dessert may take 30-45 minutes of time, the reward is that it can, and should, be made a day ahead, and even can be made up to 3 days ahead.  This means no last minute work other than prepping some berries, plating and serving, then waiting for the Ooohs and Ahhhs. 

I hope you have a chance to try this while the weather is still warm!  It made a refreshing finish to our gourmet group dinner.  One day, I hope to share some of the other recipe 'winners' of the night! 

Lemon Semifreddo with Berries and Amaretto

Serves 6-8

1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 3/4 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
1 1/4 cups sugar
7 large egg yolks
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 3 large lemons)
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups mixed fresh berries (such as raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and quartered hulled strawberries)
2-3 Tablespoons Amaretto Liqueur

My Notes:  I halved this recipe and then made 1 plus 1/2 recipe.  This made enough for two 9x5x3 pans.  The original recipe calls for the berries to be mixed with sugar.  Instead of sugar, we used Amaretto which added a wonderful flavor to compliment the toasted almonds on the semifreddo.  We also used regular lemons rather than Meyer lemons and it was delicious using regular lemons. Also, if you have a stand mixer, such as a KitchenAid, you can whip the cream first using the metal bowl and transfer the whipped cream to a regular bowl to refrigerate.  Then, wash and reuse the metal bowl over the pan of simmering water to make the custard.  Then, it's simple to place the bowl back on the mixer to whip the custard.  

Preheat oven to 350F.

Sprinkle the 1/2 cup of sliced almonds on a small baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 5-7 minutes, watching carefully in the last few minutes so they do not burn.  Set aside to cool.

Line a 9x5x3-inch metal loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving generous overhang. Sprinkle toasted almonds evenly over bottom of pan.

Using an electric mixer, beat whipping cream in large bowl until soft peaks form. Refrigerate whipped cream while making custard.

Whisk 1-1/4 cups sugar, egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon peel, and salt in large metal bowl to blend. Set bowl over large saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly until yolk mixture is thick and fluffy and instant-read thermometer inserted into mixture registers 170°F.  This took 10-15 minutes on my

Remove bowl from over simmering water. Using an electric mixer, beat mixture until cool, thick, and doubled in volume, about 6 minutes. Fold in chilled whipped cream. Transfer mixture to prepared loaf pan and smooth top. Tap loaf pan lightly on work surface to remove air pockets. Fold plastic wrap overhang over top to cover. Freeze semifreddo until firm, at least 8 hours or overnight.

DO AHEAD: Semifreddo can be made 3 days ahead. Keep frozen.

Gently mix all berries and 2-3 tablespoons of Amaretto liqueur in a large bowl.

Unfold plastic wrap from top of semifreddo and invert dessert onto platter; remove plastic wrap. Dip heavy large knife into hot water; cut semifreddo crosswise into 1-inch or so slices.

Transfer to plates; spoon berries alongside and serve.